Project Be Well: leveraging knowledge to promote employee health and wellbeing

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Purpose of the project

Sonae Sierra wanted to anticipate the potential effects of increased stress levels on employees and adopt mitigation measures by promoting health and well-being in the workplace.
In order to research and implement an effective strategy, Sonae Sierra needed either access to specialist in-house knowledge or the financial resources to employ external support, neither of which were available. We had to challenge ourselves to come up with a creative solution – how could we access the right skills at no additional cost?


The team decided that partnering with a university was the way to go. They contacted the psychology faculty at the University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE) and put together a project team including Sonae Sierra employees and faculty members. The team worked together for nine months sharing knowledge and experience.
The team’s first goal was to perform a comprehensive diagnosis of employee health and well-being across the European business by exploring organisational, group and individual resources and demands.
After analysing the results, they produced an action plan - Project Be Well - which identified a series of initiatives across eight categories to be implemented over the next two years. All initiatives were based on employee suggestions, whilst the mitigation measures were suggested by our partners at the university. The list of proposed initiatives was mapped against two criteria: potential impact on well-being and effort required to implement them. This method enabled us to decide which initiatives should be prioritised.
The collaboration delivered value for Sonae Sierra by allowing us to gain a comprehensive insight into the risks of workplace stress in our company. It enabled us to develop a plan to mitigate those risks and exploit the potential opportunities associated with high levels of employee health and well-being. It created value for the university by providing a “real-life” testing ground for the faculty to study.
Furthermore, by supporting efforts to reduce workplace stress and promoting health and well-being, we contribute to tackling a major societal problem.


Through a successful academic partnership, Sonae Sierra’s sustainability and HR teams devised a creative solution to the challenge of accessing the right skills to develop and implement a workplace well-being strategy with no investment cost.
Project Be Well also had a clear win-win outcome. Sonae Sierra provided a testing ground for faculty members, and in exchange we received specialised know-how and a detailed report on health and well-being at work, including suggestions on measures to manage it.
The project is a perfect example of the opportunities for companies and academics to build bridges in non-traditional ways (such as trainee programs, executive education or financial contributions) with a strong focus on creating shared value by leveraging knowledge on both sides.


Our Business Strategy encompasses a focus on a set of sustainability priorities with the aim of creating a virtuous circle whereby we address the primary sustainability risks facing our operations in order to safeguard our continued capacity to do business. One of the priorities - as part of our long-term focus on Leveraging Knowledge - was ‘Be Well’ project, an academic partnership with no associated investment cost which enabled us to gain comprehensive insight into workplace stress risks present within our company and develop a detailed mitigation plan to improve employee health and wellbeing.

Sonae Sierra